For my generation, Saturday night partying meant sipping Old Monk rum on Marine Drive or hanging out in the Old Trattoria at the President Hotel in Mumbai. As the first bars opened in the suburbs, I remember driving across town regularly to a bar in Chembur for a fun evening. And now, in just a few years, we actually have good watering holes in practically every neighbourhood. Fabulous!
As the markets have matured over the past few years, the lines between restaurants and bars and clubs have also blurred. You can dance at many restaurants and bars and you can eat well at clubs. As such the trendy set look for spaces they are comfortable hanging out in rather than specifically a restaurant for dinner or a club to party at. And increasingly the choice du jour is small, intimate spaces with charm and character.
These include cafes, delis and neighbourhood restaurants like the Tasting Room in Lower Parel, Pali Village Cafe in Bandra, Woodside Inn in Colaba, Mamagoto in Khan Market, Delhi, which are creating quite a buzz. Good wine bars are just a clink away.
For the late-night choices, the major metros are seeing a rebirth of proper clubs which have spent money on style and feel and have a fair level of service and hospitality. The late-night licensing in Delhi or in hotels across the country helps them prosper and they are running to full houses. Outside the major metros, partying still happens a lot in homes.
The scene in Goa, India’s party capital, is unfortunately sad. The poor safety record for women and the seeming indifference of the state have taken much of the sheen away. A xenophobic attitude towards restaurateurs from outside the state has also been discouraging though there are still a few bright spots like La Plage, Bomras, J and A’s etc.
This season also saw the launching of Club Fresh, a wannabe Nikki Beach with high-octane activity. If nothing else, it’ll certainly pave the way for the real thing to arrive. With all this partying, what should the licence raj be doing? Firstly and, most importantly, it should put together a cross-section of people from entrepreneurs to professionals and look at the various issues involved.
Largest of these is the need to reconcile the concerns of the increasing demand of those who would like to let their hair down post-work. A mix of incentives and long-term planning is required. Next, it’s important to address the issues of drunk driving. It is heartening to see the police in Mumbai clamping down on those over the limit, putting down jail terms etc and this approach must spread over the country. Side by side they should review the age for drinking which in my opinion should be reduced and then enforced more strictly.
For me, my favourite trend over the past few years has been that women are partying like never before. I can’t help feeling that it will speak well of our society and our times that we are able to provide a comfortable and safe environment for them to have the confidence to do so.
(The writer is the managing director of the Olive Bar & Kitchen chain.)